There’s a moment during the process of tying your first fly—traditionally a wooly bugger—that you see it take shape. The ambiguous separates of feathers, fur, a sharp hook, and thread suddenly come together to form something complete that can be tied on the end of a line and cast with a few snaps of the wrist into a cold stream. It’s no longer supplies you bought at a fly shop; now it is something you can imagine in a trout’s lip.
I was fortunate enough to see that moment unfold in front of about fourteen first-time tyers at Twin Pines Conservation Education Center on a cold Saturday in January. We were tying wooly buggers—a name that to the newcomer seems as apt for the process as the fly itself. After many broken threads and starting over, after marabou feathers frustrated even the nimblest of fingers, and after learning the technique of prepping a saddle hackle, the first-time tyers were ready to put the finishing touches on their first fly.
Each person in the class was currently staring at a hook that dangled feathers, chenille, and a spinning bobbin under it; all of them wondering when exactly this was going to start to look like a fly. So we wrapped our chenille forward and tied it off just behind the eye of the hook. Suddenly there was a body to the fly and the ugly lead wire used for weight could no longer be seen. But still it didn’t look like much of a lure.
We were on the home stretch now though, and with just a few wraps of the saddle hackle, a whip finish, and a drop of fly head cement, we would be done and they would have completed their first fly. That’s the moment that it takes shape. Somewhere around the second or third wrap, the sad hackle vein digs into the chenille and the barbs of the feather fray outward to look like the classic wooly bugger. Skepticism turned to pride all through the classroom as the students saw their first fly the way a trout would. They finished their wraps and tied their flies off, taking a moment to admire them in the vice. One by one the younger tyers walked their flies up to me—arms outstretched and accomplished smiles beaming across their faces—to show off their hard work. “Do you think that will catch a fish?”
Fly tying is a great way to keep any angler active and in the chase when the weather turns too sour outside. For some in my class, it isn’t even about fishing; they enjoy the art of fly tying in and of itself. For more information about fly tying, or to find out about our next class, call Twin Pines CEC at 573-325-1381.